It is that time of year in northern Minnesota where the sun still bakes your skin but in the shade there is a crispness that only fall can bring. The drive up to the farm gave hints at the autumn to come, with just a few trees starting to turn deep burgundy, orangey red, and golden yellow. Work outside was enjoyable, with an invigorating wind and the calling of sandhill cranes. The evening gifted us with crisp stars and the Milky Way with temperatures just perfect for a bonfire.
The exterior of the bunkhouse is complete, and the sound of rain on the metal roof is intoxicating, almost as much as the sound of a fire in our little cast iron stove. We were not sure what size to purchase, but the Morso Squirrel is little and fierce, filling the space with lasting heat (as well as gets our coffee percolating in the morning!). Our bunk bed structures are finished, but we haven’t painted them yet and need to build the attached stairs that lead to the loft as well as a safety railing. At the very least, the bunkhouse is now a dry, warm, comfortable place to sleep. Once we have walls around the compost toilet, the comfort factor will be even higher.
This trip, John added a beam across the area of the bunkhouse that is open floor to ceiling. This will allow the installation of a ceiling fan (powered by solar panels) to keep the air moving when we need it. Though this scaffolding setup was a big precarious-looking, the 100 year old beam is now fully secure and looking gorgeous.
I grew up with the book Old Farm, New Farm which may be responsible for my love of seeing the beauty in even the most run down of things. That mentality combined with John’s adventurous nature and ability to succeed at anything he puts his mind to can be a dangerous combination. While the bunkhouse is new and lovely, we still have a lot of old and falling apart elements to take care of.
We are slowly refining the land, mowing large areas to let the prairie dry out and keep the bugs at a minimum. The pumphouse/summer kitchen is fully dead and ready to be further broken up and put into the trash heap. The well has a beautiful hand pump, but it is probably time we figure out how to keep the flowers and grass from growing over everything. Once we get the bunkhouse fully completed we can start looking at pouring a slab for an outdoor eating pavilion with a pizza oven for those who are camping. The barn…oh, the barn…so much work needed, yet charming enough that we truly want to try and save it.
What we do have a good amount of, if we use our creativity, is awesome wood. Hand sawed, textured, old and solid. With some finesse and creativity, we are trying to use up every scrap that the farm has given us. From the five story tree house to select spaces in the new bunk house, the personality of the farm will be preserved and featured.
We had a couple projects going on this weekend. John and Laura worked on shoring up a wood wall that was pulled out of the old farm house. Grinding off nails and getting things back to plumb took all day and into the evening. I was working on restoring a lovely Hoosier that John found on craigslist. It is pretty beat up, but with some sanding and paint, it will be a lovely centerpiece to our primitive decor.
(yes, I know, John’s work looks way cooler than mine!)
As the sun set, the kids built up a nice campfire and we watched the stars come out one by one. These small moments mean so much to our family as the kids get to learn by experience and have their own natural classroom right in front of them. We let them poke and set things on fire and hammer and throw axes and yes, sometimes get hurt, but the result is that they are so brave and cunning and inquisitive. We teach them how to be careful, we advise their actions, but we let them learn by consequence, too. It is a lovely balance, and the entire point of buying the farm in the first place.
Even though it still needs insulation, interior walls, an enclosed bathroom and solar power, we are over the moon with our little bunkhouse. The exterior looks like a million bucks, and it is everything we hoped it to be. It has taken a lot of savings, hard work, scouring for deals, and sometimes just forcing things to line up, but we love our cozy little northwoods escape!
Since we are also working on remodeling our Minneapolis home (yes, we are nuts), the funds are just not there to finish in the interior of the bunkhouse. But we will keep plugging away and will share as we go! Thank you for sharing this dream with us!